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“Why isn’t she screaming?”

woman wearing dress and lying on teal cloth

The experiences in birth that have been shared with me so far have been wide in dynamic, and nothing short of vast. I can recount many instances that will imprint upon me and my future work for years to come. Being asked the titling question of this blog post while my client was in transition created within me an upheaval of emotion, confusion, and frustration that I was not prepared for. Of course, I quickly shelved the shock and returned to supporting the labor that yes, was going quite well.

For clarity, it is not the kind Nurse that was actually taking a moment to check-in on her patient and paying me a compliment, that I am bringing to light here. In fact, she was very pleasant and went on to mention after the birth that she enjoyed watching a Birth Doula because Doulas are uncommon and unfamiliar in most of Northern lower Michigan. Truly she meant no harm and was pointing out her pleasant surprise that this Woman was coping well. (Listen though, birth ROARS are coping too! Follow YOUR instincts – labor looks different for everyone!) It is suffering, during birth, that is to be avoided…

What this nurse was really asking was: “Why doesn’t she seem to be suffering while nearly pushing and hasn’t had an epidural?”

What this nurse wasn’t able see on her monitors from the nurse’s station was a Mother with learned confidence and coping strategies through educational support during pregnancy. This family was prepared to advocate for their care choices and did so prenatally, and again upon arrival to their place of birth. The hospital staff was amazingly supportive of their birth related goals and provided a protected space for her to labor how she felt most comfortable. The Nurse didn’t bear witness to the practiced transitions from one laboring position to another using skilled support from her Partner and Doula; progressing her labor normally and providing comfort along the way. The Nurse very much helped to keep this birth within normal, and so for that I am grateful.

Feeling safe and being undisturbed in a dark and quiet environment, being treated with respect, and being allowed lead in your birth are all key factors to safety and satisfaction with a birth experience. If a laboring woman is experiencing excruciating pain paired with feelings of despair and fear, it will echo through her baby, impact her labor progress, and into the rest of their lives. Creating a more realistic and positively oriented birth culture (one that isn’t reinforced with the idea that having a baby must require suffering) is a responsibility shared by everyone, and it starts with providing expanding families with the proper support during pregnancy, labor, birth, and through postpartum. We could soon have more positive stories to encourage our future generations with when we stop repeating maternal healthcare mistakes of the past, and only offering high-risk pain management solutions that often lead to a cascade of interventions. There are many pain management solutions in the hospital settings (though uncommonly offered – maybe because they cost less to provide?) that involve far less risk than epidurals do. Supported and respected sharing of our birth stories, no matter how they unfolded, is also essential. There is no shame in birth – even if you did choose an epidural – I just hope you were given all of the information and options available to you beforehand. We are all only human, after all.

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